What You Can Do NOW to Stop the Abuse of Protestors in Turkey

A protester covers her face during clashes with Turkish police near the prime minister's office in Istanbul (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images).

A protester covers her face during clashes with Turkish police near the prime minister’s office in Istanbul (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images).

In Turkey, a major human rights crisis looms.  Here is what an update on what you can do about it.

The Crisis

As protests continue to rock Turkish cities, Amnesty International has warned that injuries due to “police abuse will continue to escalate unless the authorities bring police tactics in line with basic human rights standards.” Police excesses have been “disgraceful,” Amnesty says. The number of those injured by excessive police force is as yet unknown, but is believed to be in the thousands. Many of the injuries have been serious. There are as yet unconfirmed reports of deaths.

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Coup Again in Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau protests

Some 30 people hold a peaceful demonstration in front of the national assembly, where the negotiations are taking place, on April 15, 2012 in Bissau, before soldiers violently disperse them. (Photo SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Demonstrating again the worst employment record for job security, members of the military staged a coup last week, arresting the president and prime minister, in the small, west African nation of Guinea-Bissau.

Since independence, no democratically elected president has completed a 5 year term of office.

Reacting to domestic and international condemnation, including suspension by the African Union, the army is becoming increasingly repressive of the basic rights of freedom of movement and expression, particularly of the media.

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US Weapons Against Egypt Protesters

Egypt tear gas protests

Egyptian protesters help man suffering from tear gas during clashes with riot police in Cairo on November 23, 2011 (Photo MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

There’s something wrong when on one hand Americans continue to stand up in support for Egyptians’ aspirations for human rights and on the other the US government supplies weapons to the very military regime that is attacking protesters.

And yet, as we approach the first anniversary of the Egyptian Jan. 25 uprising, activists are still facing attacks by military and security forces, and some of the tools the military are using bear the stamp, “Made in the USA.”

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US Repeatedly Shipped Arms to Egyptian Security Forces Despite Lethal Crackdown

egypt tear gas

© Nameer Galal/Demotix

The Egyptian uprising is at a crucial point.  A new cabinet is in power, a new parliament elected, but what it adds up to is all in the air, particularly with the military today making waves about how it will take a leading role in writing the new constitution.

The American reaction, both governmental and popular, hasn’t been entirely helpful.  The latest distraction is panic over whether Islamists will use their electoral power to turn Egypt into another Iran.  Nicholas Kristof today presents a compelling rebuttal as to why Egypt will not take that route.

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Accountability For Victims Of Human Rights Abuses In Syria

By Mahsa Maleki, Syria Country Specialist

A protester with his fingers painted with the Syrian flag flashes a victory sign during a demonstration in Istanbul on April 29, 2011, against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and to denounce the bloody crackdown on protests. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Since protests demanding reform began on March 15 in Syria, hundreds have been detained or  injured and more than 450 protesters killed by Syrian security forces.

Members of the army and paramilitaries have shot into crowds of protesters and mourners using live ammunition, while snipers have shot and killed people in the streets and their homes and targeted medical workers and those helping the wounded.

Although the Syrian government and the Syrian state news agency have attributed many killings to members of “terrorist” and “fundamentalist” armed groups, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the evidence clearly indicates that security forces of the Syrian government are responsible.

Amnesty International has asked the Syrian authorities for permission to enter the country to investigate alleged human rights violations first hand.

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A Turkish Spring? Freedom To Decide, Freedom To Remember

Spring is a time for optimism and so, despite all the troubling news coming out of Turkey, let me call attention to some positive signs.

The week started badly, when the Turkish Higher Election Board declared that a number of mostly Kurdish candidates for parliament, including Leyla Zana and other former prisoners of conscience, had been disqualified from running.   The decision led to massive protests in Istanbul, Van, Diyarbakir, and elsewhere. In the wake of these protests, however, the Higher Election Board has reversed itself and most, if not all, of the candidates, including Ms. Zana, will be able to run for office.

The coming week promises an event which holds reason for optimism of another sort: on Monday, April 24th a number of Turkish NGOs, will be holding a march to commemorate the Armenian Genocide and call attention to continued issues of bigotry in Turkey. This brave action is a part of a larger effort to deal forthrightly with Turkey’s past.  For example, in ways that were unimaginable only ten years ago, there are now open discussions of the Turkey’s open warfare against the Kurds of Dersim in 1937 – 38, which left tens of thousands killed and uprooted many thousands more.  What is particularly remarkable about these discussions, which have gone on for decades in intellectual circles is that they are now entering into the popular consciousness: as one taboo falters, others are weakened.

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More Arrests in Azerbaijan

While the world’s attention is on the continuing unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, the ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan is intensifying its oppression of dissent. In the words of our latest release:

[...]

Ahead of a 2 April protest organized by opposition political parties through Facebook, the authorities have today detained at least 11 prominent political activists, echoing the pre-emptive methods they used to suppress protests on 11 and 12 March.

The wave of arrests began on 29 March when Nazim Abbasli from the Azerbaijan Democrat Party was arrested and given five days’ administrative detention.

Today two members of the youth wing of opposition party Musavat, Elchin Salimov and Rauf Mammadov, were arrested today by police and questioned about the 2 April rally. Elchin Samalov was sentenced to seven days administrative detention.

Police have also questioned the family of Musavat member Idris Emiraslanli in an attempt to ascertain his whereabouts.

Deputy Chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Ilham Huseynli, APFP members Karim Mehdiyev, Mehdi Mehdiyev and Nemat Aliyev, Classical Popular Front Party member Yagub Babanli, and youth activists Khalid Amanli, Rovshan Nasili, and Tabriz Qasimov were all arrested today and remained in custody this evening.

[...]

In the meantime, pro-government figures held a spontaneous rally outside the home of opposition leader Ali Karimli. They chanted that he was a traitor and a homosexual, while police stood by and watched.

While there are a number of detained and imprisoned activists in Azerbaijan, the case of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev stands out for priority campaigning. His articles have landed him charges of terrorism and treason, while he courageously continues his fight behind bars. Please click here for a sample letter to support prisoner of coscience and human rights defender Eynulla Fatullayev.

Iraqi Government Sends Mixed Signals as Protests Continue

On Friday Iraqis will take to the streets again in mourning over the 29 peaceful demonstrators who were killed last week in Baghdad’s Day of Rage. Among the protesters killed was a 14-year-old boy. As in previous protests, demonstrators will also demand political reform, an end to corruption, and jobs as well as clean water, food and electricity.

In an effort to prevent demonstrators from reaching Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on February 25, bridges and roads leading to Baghdad were closed off, a curfew was set in place and Al-Maliki said on television that Al-Qaeda operatives might be shooting people at the protests. Thousands of soldiers and riot police were deployed in the streets of Baghdad on the days of protests. Later “forces fired water cannons, sound bombs and live bullets to disperse crowds,” according to the Washington Post.

As February 25 approached Amnesty International and other human rights organizations called on the Iraqi government to respect the rights of protesters to assemble peacefully. Protesters who demonstrated before the Day of Rage had been attacked, beaten and stabbed by gangs. Besides the beatings, detentions and killings of protesters, Al-Maliki’s government detained around 300 peaceful demonstrators.

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Workers Have A Right To Organize

Protesters join forces to kill Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's bill during a rally at the Capital Building on February 18, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mark Hirsch/Getty Images)

Amnesty International USA is deeply concerned by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages. If enacted, the Governor’s proposal would undermine the ability of unions in the public sector to protect workers, including by limiting workers’ ability to object to work conditions.

Under international law, all workers have a human right to organize and to bargain collectively. These rights are an essential foundation to the realization of other rights, and are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as well as conventions adopted by the International Labor Organization.

Amnesty stands in solidarity with those seeking to defend collective bargaining rights anywhere these rights are threatened, and we urge Governor Walker and Wisconsin legislators to protect workers’ rights by rejecting any attempt to limit collective bargaining. We further call on the Governor to respect the right to peaceful protest and ensure that protesters are not intimidated or subjected to unnecessary or excessive force.